Update overload: Setting up my new notebook

Update overload: Setting up my new notebook

Summary: A sub-notebook system at a good price means I just can't resist. First step: Windows 8 to 8.1 to 8.1 Update.


Well, I've gone and done it again. I saw this Acer Aspire V5 at a very good price (CHF 299 / €245 / £200 / $340), and I have been thinking about trying a netbook/sub-notebook with a different CPU, so this fit the bill. It looks very similar to my Acer Aspire One 725, but the technical specs are rather different:

  • Intel Celeron 1017U CPU, 1.6GHz
  • 2GB DDR3 memory
  • 320GB SATA disk
  • Intel HD Graphics
  • 11.6-inch 1366x768 display
  • Atheros 802.11b/g/n wi-fi
  • Broadcom Gigabit wired network
  • SD/MMC Card Reader
  • 3x USB 2.0 Ports
  • VGA and HDMI Ports

It came preloaded with Windows 8, so the first series of steps were setting up Windows, then upgrading to Windows 8.1 Update. I thought this was a useful case study to relay after my previous confusion with Windows 8.1 Update. In a linked post I'll talk through my experimentation with some Linux flavours.

The first part of that was routine enough, just walking through the initial configuration sequence, selecting language, locale, keyboard, and such.

Once it was up with Windows 8, I figured I would go right for the throat and start the 8.1 update. Unfortunately, that didn't work: the Windows Store informed me that I had to install the outstanding updates for Windows 8 before I could upgrade — back to Windows Update, where I found 86 updates waiting to be installed. That took an hour or so to download and install, then reboot.

Back to the Windows Store: this time it let me click on the "Upgrade to Windows 8.1 for Free" selection, and it thrashed around for a few minutes — then informed me that the installation had failed. In desperation I went back to Windows Update, and found that there were three more updates to install: why these couldn't be installed along with the other 86 beats me; they weren't even listed with that first batch, I clearly recall that there was only one "Important" update that wasn't selected, and it was an Internet Explorer 10 update so it is obvious why that one didn't get installed.

I didn't have any better ideas to get Windows 8.1 to install, so I just let it go ahead and install those three, and then reboot. When it came back up again everything looked the same, but this time it let me install the 8.1 update

No, I don't want to use Bing for anything, no, I don't want Microsoft to use my name or picture for anything, No, I don't want to share any other information with Microsoft. Although to be honest, this is pretty well organised and executed — if you don't mind using and sharing with Microsoft, you can just take the "Express" option and everything is done; I'm sure that's a convenient choice for a lot of Windows users.

But if you take the long road rather than the express option, you really get to choose what you do and don't want to use and share, and the defaults are not simply the "Express" answers shifted into individual questions. You still need to read and think, of course, but overall it seems ok.

But finally, once again, the struggle over the "Microsoft Account":  I don't have one, I don't want one, I don't need one. But on the first page that comes up, the only options are "Login with your Microsoft Account" and "Create a Microsoft Account". That's it: no option for "skip this, I don't need or want a Microsoft Account, please just let me login to Windows as I always have". I tried everything to get past this screen, with no success.

I finally chose "Create a Microsoft Account". That brought up a "create a new account" screen, and in fine print at the bottom there was an option to "continue with my existing account". It turns out that this is actually the secret escape door — it brings up the normal login screen, and I was able to login using the normal Windows account that I had created an hour ago when I first started up this system.

So, now my new Aspire V5 is running Windows 8.1. I could confirm that on the "PC Info" screen (also known as "Control Panel / System and Security / System"), but of course that only says "Windows 8.1", it doesn't say whether it is really "8.1 Update" or not.

Time to check the 'secret signals', there is a magnifying glass on the Start screen (also known as Windows Phone screen), that wasn't there before. But my experience is that this is not definitive. Ah, there in the middle of the task bar I see a new icon, for the Windows Store, I think that is the definite indication that 8.1 Update is really installed.

Aspire V5 Windows 8.1 Update
Acer Aspire V5 Windows 8.1 Update Desktop

One last thing — to check for updates. Four "Important Updates" are available. And none of them says that it is "Windows 8.1 Update", so I'm reasonably confident that it really has completely installed that version (but wouldn't it be so much easier if it would just say that on the "PC Info" screen?)

The last four updates only take a few minutes to download and install, and then of course the mandatory reboot, but this time when it comes back up I'm almost done. All that remains is removing the crapware that is preloaded on the system. And another reboot required.

I just have to go back to the Windows Update screen one more time to be sure — and one Important Update waiting to be installed! One that couldn't be installed along with any of the series of upgrade/update sequences that I just went through? Not with the first 86, or the next three, or the four after that?

One more thing: I need to disable "Fast Startup", so that when I tell Windows to shut down, it really does that rather than tricking me by just going into hibernate. If I don't do this, it's going to make life more difficult when I set up multi-boot with Linux. 

So I go to "Power Options" (either right-click on the battery icon in the task bar, or go to Settings / Control Panel / Power Options), then choose "Change what the power buttons do". 

In that screen, click "Change settings that are currently unavailable" and a new group of check-blocks will be added to the bottom of the screen. Clear the one for "Turn on fast startup". Done. Finally, I think. And this time it didn't even require a reboot after the change.

With all of that done, I can finally start to prepare the system for Linux installation. The first step of that is to go to Control Panel / System and Security / Create and Format hard disk partitions

Select the C: drive, and then on the menu bar select Action / All Tasks / Shrink Volume.  I always accept the maximum amount it will shrink, in this case that is about 140GB, which is about half of the total size of the C: partition.

In the next post (which actually turned out to be the previous post, mostly) I will complete the preparations for setting up Linux multi-boot, then I'll run through my usual list of Linux distributions and see how they work. I'm looking forward to that, because other than the Windows Update struggles, my overall impression of this system has been very good.

One last thought and comment. Because this system came preloaded with Windows 8, rather than 8.1, I thought it might have been in the distribution chain for a while. But when I checked Acer Support for a BIOS update, I found that the most recent was released on 7 April, and that version is already installed in this system.

Further reading

Topic: Operating Systems

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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  • You should have purchased a Surface!

    So, let me understand. You purchased a low-end ($299 on Amazon) that only got 2 (out of 5) stars on CNet's review site, that came pre-loaded with a version of Windows (8.0) that came out over a year and a half ago, and you write an article about the trials-and-tribulations of getting it updated to the latest version of Windows. Hmmm.... Since you tag line says that you write "about mostly Linux Stuff", let me help save time on your next Windows purchase.

    1. If you buy a computer and it is not running something close to the latest OS (at least Windows 8.1 should have been on the device), return it! That includes Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android and Chrome book. It means that it has either been sitting in the showroom/loading dock/etc for a long time, OR the manufacturer doesn't care about your "Experience" as a customer.

    2. You get what you pay for! For $299 (US), you didn't buy a "good customer experience." You could have purchased a higher-end Acer or buy a Surface, OR....and, I am just throwing this out there....buy the inexpensive Acer....Update it to the latest bits, and stop complaining....And, send a note to Acer (just in case they don't read your CNet articles) complaining about your experience, so that other customers don't have to go through what you went through.

    3. Buy a Mac, iPad, Android Tablet, Chromebook, or Microsoft Surface and have a much better customer experience. Any of those devices would have saved you considerable amounts of time. I am not sure what your time is worth, but I think that if you costed it out, you could have probably made a case that your hourly rate x the time spent on updating your $299 computer, makes that $299 computer cost closer to the cost of a Surface at least.

    4. And my last point. This isn't 2005! All the tinkering that you did once you got Windows 8.1 Update installed, sounds like something that I would have done 10 years ago! You are re-partitioning a 360GB drive down to 140GB C Drive! Anyone under the age of 30 doesn't even know what you're talking about!

    Now, I might have come off a bit harsh, but my point is this. You are a Linux guy who purchased a low-end Windows 8 machine and wrote a detailed article about what you had to do to get it to the state that you wanted (which sound like something you would have done for an XP era machine). Until you are ready to move into the new computing paradigm of "Cloud Computing", not "shrinking volumes", not spending $299 and expecting a good "customer experience" (unless you buy a Chromebook which is a big web browser), than you probably don't want to publicize your experience on the web!


    Buy a Mac!
    • Incorrecdt assumption

      Your assumption that the machine is inadequate, either because of the low price the age, or the ratings from previous evaluations, is incorrect. Windows was a pain, but I expect that. Check the other half of this pair of articles - every version of Linux that I tried works perfectly.

      If you only use a tablet, and that is sufficient for your purposes, then congratulations to you. But a lot of people want to buy low-priced hardware and reconfigure it to run Linux.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Whine

        Whine, whine, whine. The assumption was correct that you were going to whine about Windows 8.X. I use Linux on occasion. I find it amazing how people praise it yet it is years behind Windows. Even years behind Apple. If you only need to do minimal things then Linux is OK. Similarly if all you need is a browser Chrome is great. When you are ready to step into the future then there is Windows. However, life is more complicated in the future with many more options than in the past.
        • Out of curiosity.. What functions do you think Linux is behind on?

          Because I only know of things Windows is behind on... like support for multiple desktops, support for privacy and securtiy.
          • Windows has very good security.

            It's not lacking in that area.
          • Depends on where you stand.

            As a single user system it isn't bad.

            As a multi-user system though - it sucks wind. Having to have one server per service is pretty poor service.

            Having a network go down because one server failed is pretty poor. Why do thing Windows is no longer on the ISS or being used for Naval service (other than some mail, and simple desktop use). And being phased out of drone control...

            Lack of security.
          • What are you talking about?

            It's a fine multiuser system. One server per service? What context are you using?
          • He doesn't know what the hell

            He is on about, as usual.
          • .Net

            Part of what keeps Windows ahead is .NET. Things like it knows the difference between touch with a finger and touch with a digitizing stylus. No extra add-ins. It is built into the operating system and .NET. It always works the same way.

            Then there is Visual Studio. It is the gold standard by which all other IDE are measured. It is huge and because of its many features it is complex.

            How about Microsoft Word. Try building a document with columns, figures that span either one or 2 columns, and many automatic features like table of contents, index, acknowledge links, table links, figure links, etc. Things you need to do a professional quality technical paper for college, conferences, and publications. Word still has features I have not used but every time I need something, it is there.
          • .net isn't anything special...

            Just Microsoft reimplementing a Java runtime.
          • You mean the formatting stuff that TeX has been doing for 20 years?

            That sort of thing?
          • TeX Tried

            I have used TeX. It could do a few of the things but not all and took 10 times longer. Maybe even longer than that because it never worked quite right.
          • .Net

            .Net goes way beyond Java runtime. The things Java Runtime does are a small subset of .Net. I more valid complaint about .Net when comparing it to Java Runtime is that .Net does to many things and makes programmers lazy.
          • Why should ordinary users care about Visual Studio?

            As good as it might be, it's still strictly a programmer's toy.
            John L. Ries
        • Rhetorical trick

          If you criticize the Good Guys, it's called "whining"; legitimate criticism is only aimed at Bad Guys.
          John L. Ries
      • What about Windows was a pain?

        The fact you had to do two different updates before Windows 8.1 Update would install? While I'm puzzled as to why Microsoft is unable to install all the necessary patches in one session kicking off the update process is trivial and, once done, is pretty much hands off. Go do something else while the patches install.

        Other than that what issues did you have with Windows?
        • 8.1 Upgrade failure

          What other issues? Well, start with the fact that the WIndows 8.1 Upgrade failed to install, with absolutely no indication of why, and no information about what to do to get it to install. Add to that the fact that not only did I have to go through Windows Update twice before 8.1 would install, but I also had to go through Windows Update at least three or four times AFTER 8.1 installed in order to get all of the updates.

          However, to be fair about this, and it is something that I should have said in the post, or even in my earlier post about Windows 8.1 (Update), I do absolutely agree that these updates are moving Windows in the right direction, again. In my opinion Windows 8 was an absolutely unusable, illogical, confusing collection of garbage. Windows 8.1 started to make it at least possible for an experienced and knowledgeable user to override the default configuration and drag Windows back to being at least marginally useable. Windows 8.1 (Update), whatever it's real name is or however you want to identify it, went even further and brought a lot of those configuration changes automatically to ordinary Windows users. I think that is a good thing, and real progress, so I applaud it.

          BUT, it just occurs to me... I am old, and cranky, and a dedicated Linux user (and Unix user before that). I hated Windows 8. But I assume there were some people who really liked it, and who thought that having the Windows Phone home screen on a laptop or desktop system was a great idea. Now, suddenly, that disappears when they upgrade to 8.1 and update to 8.1 (Update). How are they going to feel about that surprise? I suspect there might be some who are yelling "What happened to my Start screen" just as loud as a lot of us yelled "What happened to my Start menu" when Windows 8 was released.

          Or maybe not... maybe there really was not one person in the entire world who really liked Windows 8, or at least liked it well enough to complain when it reverted from the Windows Phone screen to the desktop.

          Thanks for reading and commenting.

          • So it boils down to you had to manually run Windows Update several...

            ...times. Oh, the horror! While I agree it's not ideal I'd hardly consider this anything more than a minor annoyance.
          • Perspective

            Interesting. I agree with you, 100%. It's not ideal, but I don't consider it to be a horror. Ok, maybe I agree 98%, because I do consider it to be a bit more than a minor annoyance, but not all that much more.

            However, to keep things in perspective, I didn't say it was a "horror", did I? My intention is just to report what happened when I did this, as any ordinary user would do it, and it is left to the reader to decide how much of a problem this really is.

            Just to restate something one more time to be sure... I considered the fact that the 8.1 upgrade installation failed without giving any hint about why or what to do was quite a bit more serious problem than having to run Windows Update multiple times.

            Thanks for reading and commenting.

          • You felt it necessary to write a blog about it.

            "However, to keep things in perspective, I didn't say it was a "horror", did I?"

            You didn't say it but you certainly act like it.

            "...when I did this, as any ordinary user would do it..."

            An ordinary user wouldn't give it any thought. They'd bring it home, turn it on, and use it. Meanwhile, in the background, patches will be downloaded and installed without their intervention.